Metro Weekly

Femme: Sex and Revenge Served Up Gay (Review)

'Femme' stirs sex and romance with revenge in the charged tale of a gay man seducing the closeted punk who attacked him.

Femme: Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and George MacKay
Femme: Nathan Stewart-Jarrett and George MacKay

In the taut, London-set thriller Femme, a chance encounter between fabulously femme drag performer Jules, and macho, drug-dealing punk Preston kicks off a twisted cycle of both intense mutual attraction and disturbing violence that neither seems able or willing to resist.

First comes attraction. Jules, portrayed with brilliant openness by Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, is standing outside the club in full drag as Aphrodite when she spots, hovering alone across the street, Preston, embodied with tightlipped, tattooed swagger by 1917 star George MacKay.

Jules, as Aphrodite, next sees Preston at a nearby corner shop among his rowdy friends. Someone slings the F-slur, then comes the violence of a vicious anti-LGBTQ attack that leaves Jules scarred and broken.


Directors Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping, adapting their award-winning 2021 short, don’t sensationalize the beatdown, but assuredly capture the horror and humiliation of the event, which Preston’s friends, of course, whip out their phones to record. 

Femme: Nathan Stewart-Jarrett

The assault robs Jules of the queer joy he radiated in and out of drag. Barely moving a muscle, Stewart-Jarrett conveys a version of Jules depleted, seated stiffly on the couch staring into a screen, playing video games. His fun-loving roommates Alicia (Asha Reid) and Toby (John McCrea) can’t reach him.

Eventually, he seeks solace of some sort at a gay sauna, where, wouldn’t you know it, he encounters Preston, who doesn’t recognize the person he attacked in the street. So Jules hatches a dangerous plan to seduce his attacker. And then what?

Danger and seduction, sex and submission, and closets full of repression and denial get all mixed up as Jules and Preston embark on a ticking time bomb of a dom-sub entanglement. Their down-low rendezvous are coursing with physical heat, and occasional tenderness, but the sex — shot with flashes of nudity, and lots of thrusting framed from the chest up — is rough, not erotic. It looks hot, but not fun.

That should make it even hotter for anyone who enjoys the interplay of dominance and submission as much as Preston does. Jules must be looking for a man who’ll treat him “like a little bitch,” Preston teases, adding that he’s the man for the job.

Femme: George MacKay
Femme: George MacKay

MacKay makes it clear that, though Preston’s hair-trigger temper is genuine, the tough-guy pose is just that, flimsy armor protecting his brokenness. One of the saddest things about him is that Preston might make a great boyfriend if he weren’t so afraid. And one of the truer things in the film is its depiction of the thin line between fear and anger, between being irresistibly rough and being a violent thug.

Yet, Jules can’t quit him, even as he constantly puts himself in precarious situations around Preston and his boys that’ll have moviegoers shouting, “Girl, what are you doing?!” It might be that Jules is just that committed to exacting revenge, and it might also be that he’s seriously turned on by this fucked up relationship. 

The movie’s sweet (and sour) spot is that gray area where neither Jules nor the audience can tell what he wants out of this. He explores his options, through which the film dips a toe into the world of revenge porn and the subculture of exposing DL straight dudes on the internet.

The discussion doesn’t run that deep, and there’s no discussion at all of the racial dynamics at play in Aryan Nation-looking Preston treating statuesque, Black queen Jules like his little bitch. (Although, Jules does turn the tables in one of their sexual encounters, which is fun.)


The sexual race play is mainly just implied, while the film — crisply edited, with nimble sound design capturing the acoustics of crowded club nights — digs more substantially into the tension between masc and femme, dom and sub, and the dysfunctional power dynamic between strangers from different worlds who fit together and clash violently.

The allure of dangerous sex is real. But, ultimately, there is a reckoning for both of them, a finale which MacKay and Stewart-Jarrett play beautifully, in spite of the ugliness that first brings Jules and Preston together.

Femme (★★★☆☆) is now playing in theaters nationwide. Visit


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